I remember the specific summer that I fell in love with you. It was the summer of 1979 and I was 11 years old. My sister, Sharron, a new member of the Canadian Armed Forces, stationed at CFB Cold Lake, asked my dad to bring her car out to her.
My father decided that he, my mom and I would drive his Ford F-150 truck from Point La Nim, N.B., to Cold Lake, Alta., while towing my sister’s car behind us.
My parents decided we should make it a full cross-country tour. I dipped my toes into the Atlantic Ocean before we left and then dipped them into the Pacific Ocean once we arrived in Victoria, B.C.
It took the entire summer to make the trip and we only stayed in motels twice. My mom and I would put up our tent every night while my dad did the cooking on a Coleman stove.
We met friendly Canadians along the way and shared picnic tables at campsites with families discovering Canada for the first time. We even ran into a couple of guys in Banff who saw the “Palmater’s Cycle Shop” sign on our truck and came to say hi. Turns out they had bought a Harley-Davidson from my dad a few years before.
“But that summer when I toured Canada, sitting between my parents in a pickup truck, I felt like I was queen of the world.”
We were not fancy people. We didn’t travel to exotic lands. We didn’t eat at restaurants. But that summer when I toured Canada, sitting between my parents in a pickup truck, I felt like I was queen of the world.
We picked up my sister in Alberta and she joined us for the western part of the tour. For that part of the trip, she and I lay on a mattress in the back of the truck, gazing at the big western sky. (Parents reading this are probably gasping, but remember: it was 1979.)
I’m 48 now, and I still have vivid memories of leaving the trees and waters of the Maritimes and driving into the excitement and glamour of the big city of Montreal, where we stopped to visit cousins.
I’ve been all the way to New Zealand now, but still nothing compares to the experience of seeing Lake Louise for the first time or the Rockies in general, for that matter. And my opinion of Canada hasn’t changed one bit over the years. Swimming in the hot springs in Jasper National Park with my parents is such a sweet memory for me now that both Mommy and Daddy have passed away.
Daddy encouraged me to keep a journal of the trip. He said I should know my country, the country that he had fought to defend in the Second World War. He said that even though there were problems, it was the most beautiful country in the world.
That summer, after driving across it, I had to admit, Daddy was right.
Candy Palmater is a TV/radio broadcaster and professional speaker. She was raised in Point La Nim, N.B., and now lives in Toronto with her wife and two dogs.